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J-Pop Iron Chef MP3s

Three acts participated in the January 4, 2006, edition of the semi-regular Iron Chef of Music competition. According to the ancient rules of the Iron Chef (well, not ancient, but this is its 43rd edition), each participant is provided with the same sample, and they then have a set amount of time in which to transform that raw sonic material into something new. This time out, the source sound object is Sato Chiyako‘s “Haha no Uta” (MP3), an overproduced swath of Japanese vocal quasi-classicism. This seems culturally appropriate, since the model for the competition is the Japanese TV show Iron Chef. Previous Iron Chef of Music samples have included field recordings, TV theme songs and Benny Goodman playing with Bela Bartok.

Chef Lipton barely waited two seconds before figuring out what, in the Chiyako original, he wanted to emphasize; he molds those opening seconds, a rapid orchestral descent that may already show evidence of skipping vinyl, into a rhythmic pulse, then adding another atop, on “Jan06” (MP3). In the process, Chiyako’s voice, cut into syllables, comes to resemble that of Yoko Ono: intense, militarist, hardened yet abstract. Silversmith‘s “I Know Less Japanese Than There Is Treble in This Song” (MP3) works more affectionately with various layers, finding a lacey elegance in Chiyako’s singing, quite to the contrary of Lipton’s interpretation.

Wankers United, on “Takisheat” (MP3), is less concerned with the flavor of the original; digital chatter sets the stage before it settles into a bouncy gurgle. Finding elements of the Chiyako in Wankers’ version might be cause for a competition even more demanding than the Iron Chef of Music. Check out past events at ironchefofmusic.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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